Henry Litton
Henry Litton
Henry Litton is a retired Court of Final Appeal judge and author of "Is the Hong Kong Judiciary Sleepwalking to 2047?".

Not only did dentist Yeung Lai-ping lose her livelihood to an injury sustained while working at a public hospital, her employer, the Department of Health, refused to admit wrongdoing for two decades. By repeatedly filing appeals, the government displayed a lack of both common sense and compassion.

Hong Kong has retained the common law system of jurisprudence, wherein all the case law is expressed in English. A greater effort should be made to ensure that the legal system harmonises with the Basic Law and is compatible with the wider national interest.

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The group of Hongkongers who championed democracy without regard to the Basic Law and the underlying concept of ‘one country, two systems’ cannot be seen as patriots.

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Managing the reintegration of Hong Kong with the motherland requires leadership of the highest order and a culturally advanced society. The short-term cycle of elected governments in a democracy makes it virtually impossible for a policy like one country, two systems to gain traction.

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Without official recognition of English, how can the common law system work? And what of ‘one country, two systems’? These are existential questions that should engage every lawyer, magistrate and judge.

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Frivolous judicial review applications don’t just waste time and money – they point to the more serious problem of a court culture that entertains groundless claims, by opponents of government policy, that the Basic Law has been breached.

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The judge who found them guilty of organising and being involved in an unlawful assembly acted with meticulous care and based her judgment on irrefutable evidence. The idea that Beijing practised ‘ruthless oppression’ on Hong Kong through the court proceedings is nonsense.

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The powers given to legislators under the Basic Law must be exercised in good faith. If the whole essence of their endeavours is to wreak havoc, and bring down the government, then they are using the Basic Law as a disguise for subversive activities.

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How did it come about that Beijing has developed such mistrust of the Hong Kong judiciary? The courts have put a slant on the Basic Law, by applying obscure norms and values from overseas which are totally unsuited to Hong Kong’s circumstances.

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The Hong Kong judiciary is being called upon to calibrate the ‘one country, two systems’ formula so that it comfortably accommodates Hong Kong cultural values with national aspirations.

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With the law’s text not yet revealed, Western leaders have jumped the gun and concluded that it will be oppressive and destroy the Sino-British Joint Declaration. Are Hong Kong and its people pawns in a greater geopolitical agenda?

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The common law lies at the heart of ‘one country, two systems’ and there is no reason the governing principle should not continue beyond 2047 if it is in harmony with broader national interests.

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By declaring the mask ban unconstitutional, the High Court judges arrogated to themselves the power to determine Hong Kong’s ‘constitutional order’. However, all laws have already been scrutinised to ensure they do not contravene the Basic Law.

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